Football: Fandi Ahmad's debut to forget

Singapore's Ikhsan Fandi squaring off with Indonesia's Ricky Fajrin Saputra at the National Stadium last night. The Young Lions need to improve in numerous areas if they are to get the nod for August's Asiad in Indonesia.
Singapore's Ikhsan Fandi squaring off with Indonesia's Ricky Fajrin Saputra at the National Stadium last night. The Young Lions need to improve in numerous areas if they are to get the nod for August's Asiad in Indonesia.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Coach says Young Lions must improve 'in all areas' after defeat by Indonesia

FRIENDLY

Singapore Under-23s 0

Indonesia Under-23s 3

A 3-0 defeat by Indonesia in an Under-23 friendly that doubled up as an Asian Games audition showed that the Young Lions still have some way to prove that they deserve to go to the Games in August.

As Fandi Ahmad, who made his bow as Singapore Under-23 coach, admitted, the Asiad hosts were on a higher level at the National Stadium last night.

"I liked the way we fought even though we were down but Indonesia were full of technical ability, speed and power. They were on a different level and we have a lot to do to catch up," said Fandi, the FAS head coach for youth.

Like the former Lion said, his boys do not lack heart and drive.

FIGHTING DESPITE THE ODDS

I liked the way we fought even though we were down but Indonesia were full of technical ability, speed and power. They were on a different level and we have a lot to do to catch up.

FANDI AHMAD, the Football Association of Singapore's head coach for youth who oversees the SEA Games and Asian Games teams.


WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED

We have no real playmaker and our shots were all individual efforts. It's true, we can be tactically better and try to improve in all areas. But first, we must try to be professional and hope our boys don't miss any training sessions while players from other countries have eight to nine sessions a week.

FANDI , on getting the basics right.

But, as a former national striker, the 55-year-old knows that goals win games and tournaments, and get crowds packing the stadiums.

There were three such moments which had the fans purring.

Unfortunately for the hosts, the moments of magic all came from the Indonesian Under-23s.

First, midfielder Febri Haryadi glided past his opposite number Hami Syahin before unleashing a right-footed piledriver from 30 metres into the top corner two minutes before the break.

There was a sense of deja vu six minutes after the restart as Muhd Hargianto cut in from the left to net from a similar distance.

In the 65th minute, Singapore's Akbar Shah shanked a shot that almost went out for a throw-in, but the visitors kept it in play as Febri scorched the left flank before laying off for substitute Septian David to score the third.

Young Lions goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad cannot be blamed for the goals conceded, as he had already done well to parry Febri's 18th-minute belter and deny Ezra Walian in a one-on-one situation seven minutes later.

The hosts' biggest threat came just after the opener when Hami's free kick was narrowly headed over by skipper Illyas Lee in first-half stoppage time.

But the gulf in quality was clear.

Starting with an attacking-minded 3-5-2 formation that was pegged back by Indonesia into a 5-3-2 arrangement, Fandi would do well to work on the Young Lions' organisation, understanding, decision-making and set pieces.

He said: "We have no real playmaker and our shots were all individual efforts.

"It's true that we can be tactically better and try to improve in all areas, but first we must try to be professional and hope our boys don't miss any training sessions while players from other countries have eight to nine sessions a week."

Fandi will no doubt tackle the Young Lions' shortcomings before the start of the new Singapore Premier League season next week.

As for the Asian Games, the Singapore National Olympic Council's qualification criteria is to match the top-six result at a previous Games (Indonesia reached the round of 16), or to beat opponents ranked at least sixth on the continent.

Unless the Young Lions play more international matches against better opponents like they would at the Asian Games, they will find it hard to improve.

For example, 10 of the Indonesia Under-23s' starting XI are already capped at the senior level.

With Fifa windows in shortage between now and August, it looks like the Young Lions are in the last-chance saloon at next month's Under-21 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei - which should feature the likes of Vietnam and Thailand, who finished fourth at the last Asiad.

Fandi said: "We have seen the level of our opponents from the region, and there is a higher level beyond that. We need to help our team become stronger."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Fandi's debut to forget'. Print Edition | Subscribe